Cape Town - A shark catch that has possibly set a new world angling record has left a shark tourism operator furious, promising to enlist the government’s help to stop the illegal fishing of sharks.
Two UK-based media houses, Birmingham Mail and the Express, have published accounts of how a Birmingham angler caught a 6m, two-ton great white shark off Cape Agulhas on March 25.
In the Express, Andy Hales, 55, recounted “wrestling with it for two hours”.
“You could see these razor-sharp teeth that were about the size of my head,” Hales told the Express.
“I knew one slip and I could have got pulled in – I was hanging on for dear life.”
The Express reported that the shark had “towed” their vessel for more than two nautical miles, which tired it out. It was “finally brought under control, but it was too big for the single-engine-propelled vessel to take on board”.
It was reported that the catch had broken the official International Game Fishing Association’s great white shark world record of 1.16 tons.
The Express reported that Hales had been fishing with fellow businessman Richard Foster, 54, who runs a fishing equipment firm, who added: “We were fishing for yellowfin tuna, and when you’re after them, you’re always going to get the sharks.
“When we got it next to the boat, it was just incredible – it was the width of two shire horses standing next to each other.”
But the report has left well-known Gansbaai shark tourism operator Kim “Sharklady” McLean expressing her “absolute dismay, disgust and disbelief”.
“He actually admits that he knew he had a chance to catch a white shark. He was fishing in a place he knew he could hook a white shark with heavy tackle.
“South Africa was the first country to protect this magnificent species, and yet fishing charters still operate in and around Struisbaai, targeting great whites.
“I, as the chairperson of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation, on behalf of the other shark-diving operators, conservationists and other shark-protection organisations, will be urgently seeking support from the compliance sector in government to look into this matter very seriously,” McLean said.
However, in the report in the Birmingham Mail, Foster was quoted as saying the shark had not been killed.
“The thing is, it all has to be estimated,” he said about the weight.
“What you don’t want to do is kill the shark in order to find out exactly how much it weighs.”
But McLean said: “When you catch a shark of that calibre, a shark that has fought for that amount of time with a hook in its gut… you don’t know if it’s survived either.”
In October 2011, a similar great white catch, in Mossel Bay, sparked outrage when angler Leon Bekker, from George, was photographed with the protected shark on the rocks.
Bekker defended himself at the time, saying he did not know the animal was a great white when he hooked it while sport fishing.
When asked by a reporter at the time why he had not cut it loose after he had hooked it, as required by law, he said: “I’m a beginner at this (sport fishing). I didn’t know it was a great white. I’ve been doing this for a year only. I normally do take hooks out.”
It is illegal to kill or target great whites – listed as vulnerable to extinction – for sport.
No one has been prosecuted.